Pantry: Make the most of tomatoes now
Oh, the tomatoes, we all moaned as we gloried in the late September downpour, with its dramatic thunder, lightning and hail.
It is, of course, impossible not to be thrilled by the rain yet at the same time it is sad to know we will be saying goodbye to tomatoes soon. My advice? Eat them now, every which way, and preserve what you can by drying, freezing or canning.
It’s a perfect time for simple homemade tomato sauces, which practically make themselves from super-ripe tomatoes. It’s also a great time to roast tomatoes in the oven for rich soups and stews, either now or in the dead of winter, when it’s good to realize we’ve planned ahead.
Local eggs will soon be slowing down, too; hens take their winter break as days shorten and nights lengthen. These days, we have enough small producers that we should have local pastured eggs throughout the winter, but they won’t be as abundant as they were in the summer months.
Today’s recipes are for tomato dishes that I’ve been enjoying recently, foods I’ve known of for years but had not cooked myself until recently. Now that I’ve worked out my own versions, I’m pleased with the results and ready to share them with you.
For more tomato recipes, including late summer tomato sauce and oven-roasted tomatoes, visit “Eat This Now” at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.
Eggs baked or poached in a spicy tomato sauce is a popular dish in the Middle East, where it is known as shakshouka or some variation of that name. Its popularity has spread throughout the Mediterranean and there are many regional variations, with such additions as chorizo in Spain. You may find it with merguez sausage as a Moroccan lamb sauce, with green olives and with warm pita instead of bread alongside. It is typically prepared in a clay pot, often a large one that serves several people. In this version, I make a single serving, a perfect dinner for one on a cool fall night. It is easily doubled or tripled and you can make it in either individual pots or one large one. Just make sure the sauce is good - this means tasting it several times as you prepare it - and do not overcook the eggs; the yolks should be hot but still liquid.
Shakshouka (Eggs Baked in Spicy Tomato Sauce)
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ small yellow onion, cut into small dice
3 to 4 garlic cloves, minced
- Kosher salt
1 to 2 teaspoons hot Spanish paprika, to taste
1 to 2 teaspoons smoked Spanish paprika, to taste
¾ teaspoon ground cumin
2 to 3 medium ripe tomatoes, cored and peeled
1 to 2 Anaheim-type chilies or 1 poblano, seared, peeled, seeded and cut into medium julienne
2 farm eggs, at room temperature
2 ounces feta cheese, broken into pieces
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley or cilantro
- Black pepper in a mill
- Hot bread, such as a Raymond Bakery’s baguette
Put the olive oil into a small sauté pan set over medium heat, add the onion and saute until soft and fragrant, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic, sauté 2 minutes more, season with salt and stir in the paprikas and cumin.
Hold a peeled tomato in your dominant hand and crush it into the pan; do the same with the other tomato. Stir in the chile, taste and correct for salt and pepper.
At this point, I prefer to tip the sauce into a clay pot known as a bram, a small one that has been warmed. I then put it into a toaster oven, set the temperature on 300 and then raise it incrementally until it reaches 400 degrees (the slow heating protects the bram). If you don’t have a bram, use another type of small clay or porcelain dish or poach the eggs in the sauce on top of the stove.
When the sauce is bubbling hot, break one of the eggs into a small bowl, gently tip it into the bram, do the same with the second egg and return it to the oven. When the egg whites seem almost done, set the oven to “broil” and cook for 2 minutes more.
Carefully remove the bram, set it on a small wooden cutting board, scatter with feta and either parsley or cilantro, season with several turns of black pepper and enjoy immediately, with hot bread alongside.
This dish has two sources of inspiration, the classic Snapper Veracruz or Vercruzana, typically prepared with a whole snapper, and the little rosefish, also known as red perch, that Santa Rosa Seafood had at the farmers market a couple of weeks ago. There are many versions of the dish, some that prepare a sauce in advance and others, including this one, that let the sauce form as the fish cooks. Traditional versions frequently include pickled jalapeños and some of their brine, but I prepare it using fresh chilies and, for acid, fresh lime juice.
Serves 3 to 4
1½ pounds rosefish (red perch), dressed but whole
½ teaspoon chipotle powder
- Kosher salt
- Black pepper in a mill
- Extra virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, peeled and very thinly sliced
5 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
2 to 3 ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into very thin rounds
2 to 3 bay leaves
1 poblano, seared, peeled, seeded and cut into medium julienne
2 jalapeños, seared, peeled, seeded and cut into small julienne
2 tablespoons capers
2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano
1 medium tomato, peeled, cored and minced
½ cup pitted green olives, such as Picholine, cut in half crosswise
- Chopped cilantro
- Steamed rice
- Hot corn tortillas
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Set the rosefish on a clean work surface and sprinkle the chipotle powder inside the cavities of the fish. Season the fish lightly all over with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Pour just enough olive oil into a heavy skillet - cast iron is perfect - to coat the bottom and spread the onions in the pan. Top with the tomatoes, tiling them over the surface of the entire pan. Top with the bay leaves and scatter half the jalapeños, half the capers and half the oregano on top.
Arrange the rosefish on top and then scatter the remaining jalapeños, capers and oregano over the fish. Drizzle some olive oil onto the fish, squeeze the juice of 1 lime over everything, scatter the olives on top and set in the oven.
Bake for about 15 minutes, until the fish is cooked through and the sauce is hot and bubbly.
Cut the remaining lime into wedges.
Transfer to a trivet or other protective surface.
Scatter cilantro on top and serve hot from the pan, with lime wedges, rice and tortillas alongside.
Michele Anna Jordan has written 17 books to date, including “Vinaigrettes and Other Dressings.” You’ll find her blog, “Eat This Now,” at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. Email Jordan at firstname.lastname@example.org